Dr. Magnuson discusses telehealth with Journal Star

Dr. Thomas Magnuson

Last month, UNMC Associate Professor and Geriatric Psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Magnuson spoke with the Lincoln Journal Star about the growing use of telehealth to combat the shortage of mental health providers in rural Nebraska.

In the article, “Is telehealth the answer to Nebraska’s mental health care shortage?” Dr. Magnuson told reporter Riley Johnson that telehealth, a secure video conferencing technology that links patients and providers, may be the best answer to the shortage.

Nearly one-third of the state’s 93 counties have no mental health care providers, and 88 counties have a shortage, according to UNMC. From Omaha, Dr. Magnuson can see geriatric psychiatry patients in almost all of those counties without providers. Many don’t need to leave their nursing or assisted living homes, he said.

Dr. Magnuson has used telehealth for 14 years to reach patients as far from Omaha as the panhandle.

Even with Dr. Magnuson’s extensive use of the technology, a May 2018 University of Michigan study found telehealth’s use in mental health care across Nebraska is sparse. Their survey of Nebraska mental health care providers found only half of 42 respondents use the technology. According to the study, some providers don’t use the service because their clients live locally or have easy access to transportation. Telehealth advocates see reluctance among their peers to adopt the new technology and some organizations said they lack the needed support staff, the report found. Still, Magnuson told the newspaper that he believes in telehealth’s power to reduce travel times and allow more people access to community-based mental health care as wait times grow.

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